Out of the 48 combined first-round matchups in the Class 4A, 5A and 6A playoffs last week on the Kansas side, there were only five lower seeds that moved on to this week’s round of 16. Every higher seed won in 6A. In 4A, No. 9W Rose Hill edged No. 8W Winfield. Things got a little more interesting in 5A with No. 9E Seaman beating No. 8E Washington, No. 10E Lansing upending No. 7E Pittsburg, No. 9W Great Bend defeating No. 8W Salina Central and No. 11W Maize knocking off No. 6W Goddard.
I’ve always been on the fence of whether every team should make the postseason, but in my mind, the playoffs truly start this week on the Kansas side.
I think all four 4A East matchups are quite compelling. No. 1E Atchison has done everything you can ask of them by being undefeated at this point while No. 8E Eudora has had a bit of an up-and-down season. Eudora is much more battle-tested, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Cardinals went on the road and pulled off the upset. No. 4E Chanute’s lone loss of the season came to No. 5E Tonganoxie. Tongie won that game, 38-21, but I expect Friday’s contest at Chanute to be a close one.
On the bottom half of the 4A East bracket, No. 2E Louisburg will take on No. 7E Basehor-Linwood and No. 3E Bishop Miege will square off against No. 6E St. Thomas Aquinas. I haven’t had the chance to see Basehor-Linwood play yet this season, but Louisburg was very impressive in its Frontier League-clinching win against Spring Hill that I covered. I think the Bobcats will need to be at their best if they’re going to end Louisburg’s undefeated season.
I also covered the regular season Miege/Aquinas matchup, which Miege won 19-7. Miege nearly suffered a first-round exit last week, needing to rally to beat St. James. This week’s rivalry matchup between the Stags and Saints should be a good one, too, especially if the Aquinas backfield is healthier than it was in the regular season matchup against Miege.
I’ll be surprised if the 5A East second-round games are as closely contested as the 4A East games. No. 4E Mill Valley remains the favorite as the four-time defending state champion. I expect them to get past No. 5E Spring Hill and face No. 1E De Soto, who is hosting No. 9E Seaman. There have been some thrilling games between Mill Valley and De Soto since both schools have been in 5A. That could be a very exciting matchup if the Jaguars and Wildcats can take care of business this week.
The bottom half of the 5A East bracket features No. 2 Blue Valley Southwest vs. No. 10E Lansing and No. 3E Highland Park vs. No. 6E Shawnee Heights. I expect Blue Valley Southwest to get out of this group of four to play either Mill Valley or De Soto. The Timberwolves have a Simone Award candidate in quarterback Dylan Dunn, who I think is just going to keep getting better as the Friday night lights get brighter this postseason.
I don’t think the 6A East looks quite as wide open as last year, but No. 1E Gardner-Edgerton and No. 2E Olathe North won’t have a super easy path the rest of the way either. Gardner-Edgerton appears to be rolling again after suffering its lone loss to Olathe East in Week 7. Shawnee Mission Northwest coach Bo Black always has his team ready to play, though, so I believe that the No. 8E Cougars will give the top-seeded Trailblazers their best shot.
The winner of Gardner-Edgerton/SMNW will play either No. 4E Olathe South or No. 5 Blue Valley Northwest. This should be a down-to-the-wire No. 4/No. 5 matchup. Outside of Olathe South’s one-point win over SM South in Week 7, neither team has played in any one-score games. If Thursday’s game between the Falcons and Huskies is a tight one, I look forward to seeing how each team handles the pressure.
Olathe North’s lone loss of the season came to Gardner-Edgerton, 21-14, in Week 5, but the Eagles have since defeated two top-tier teams in Mill Valley and Free State. The Eagles need to ignore the record of their round of 16 opponent, No. 7E Blue Valley West, though. I doubt you’ll find a better 4-5 team than the Jaguars in the state, so the Eagles will need to be on their A-game again.
One of the hottest teams in the state is No. 3E Olathe East. The Hawks have won six straight since starting the season 1-2 and will take on No. 6E Blue Valley in the Round of 16. Both teams played very tough schedules to prepare them for what should be a great matchup between two very strong teams.
The PrepsKC coverage area does also include two teams that are still alive in the 6A West in No. 7W Free State and No. 6W Lawrence High. They both have 7-2 records, which shows you how stacked the 6A West is. The Firebirds will try to knock off defending champion Manhattan, while the Lions will attempt to upend perennial power Derby. If the Firebirds and Lions are victorious, they’ll play each other in the sectional round. That would be an electric matchup. And it would be one of many as the playoffs on the Kansas side really get rolling this week.